“Your role has been endorsed by our Pacific Leaders”-SG Puna to new Pacific High Level Climate Champions to COP26

Pacific Islands Forum

Secretary General Henry Puna

 Opening remarks at the Launch Event for the Pacific COP26 Political Climate Champions

10:00am – 11:00 am, Tuesday 5th October 2021



Honourable Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands – Champion for Climate Finance.

Honourable Alfred Alfred Minister of Finance, Republic of the Marshall Islands – Champion for Climate Ambition, (represented by RMI Special Climate Envoy Tina Stege)

Honourable Seve Paeniu, Minister of Finance for Tuvalu – Champion for Loss and Damage;

Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney General and Minister of Economy for Fiji – Champion for Oceans and Climate Finance.

Honourable Steven Victor, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries & Environment for the Republic of Palau – Champion for Environmental Integrity.

Senior Officials and Negotiators.

One CROP Executives and Officials.

Ladies and gentlemen.


Bula Vinaka, Kia Orana and good morning.

Allow me to convey on behalf of Forum Members and CROP colleagues our sincere appreciation to you, Excellencies, and your respective governments, for stepping forward to champion our Pacific priorities at COP26.

For our Blue Pacific, no world meeting is more important than COP26. The stakes are high because climate change is an existential threat to our people, and we know this COP is the final opportunity to keep the 1.5 degrees threshold within reach and avoid a tipping point of no return.

At the current warming level of 1.2 degrees, our seas are rising, our oceans are warming, and extreme events are more frequent and severe. On this current trajectory, we are on track for a climate catastrophe. Our very future is at stake.

That’s why COP26 is critical. World leaders, like our Pacific leaders, must affirm climate change as the single greatest threat facing all humanity and act with urgency to implement the Paris Agreement.

To mobilise global political will for decisive climate action and influence a strong legacy COP26 outcome that reflects our regional priorities, our Pacific voice must be heard louder in Glasgow, and we must be represented in the negotiating rooms at the senior political level.

In recognition of the fact that not all Pacific Island Countries will participate at COP26 at the senior political level, your CROP agencies initiated the proposal for Political Climate Champions to represent our collective voice. I wish to confirm that your role has been endorsed by our Pacific Leaders.

Honourable Champions, let me underscore that the approach respects and acknowledges the sovereign rights of your countries and is sensitive to your national priorities.

But we also know that we are stronger together. As our Political Climate Champions, you will raise our collective voice by advocating and influencing decision making at COP26 on issues of critical importance to our region, guided by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Kainaki Lua Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now and the latest Pacific ACP Leaders Statement on COP26 for a 1.5-degree World.

To the international community, my message to you is this: Climate change is a matter of survival for us, and every day of inaction brings us one step closer to a perilous future which could see many of our homes disappear. We have appointed our COP26 Climate Champions because we want to influence a COP26 outcome that finalises the Paris Rulebook, keeps 1.5 degrees within reach, delivers on the 100 billion climate finance goal, provides dedicated financing for loss and damage, concludes negotiation on the Markets Mechanism, and advances work on the ocean in the UNFCCC. We call for your support to our Climate Champions and only a global solution could address the climate crisis facing us.

In closing, let me assure our Honourable Champions of the unwavering support from all Forum members and your CROP agencies in the lead up to, at COP26 and post-COP. We are all committed to make your engagement a success, and some of us will be there in person in Glasgow to support you. You are our Pacific peoples’ beacon of hope and our prayers are with you on your journey to Glasgow.

I thank you. —ENDS

**Note The updated PDF of the Champions above, at October 26, notes the climate champion from RMI is Hon. Bruce Bilimon, Minister for Health.


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